Neglected by both the Palestinian Authority and harassed by the Israeli military, these families have to survive without running water or electricity.
Any water wells dug by the families themselves will likely be destroyed by Israel, which maintains strict control over water resources in the occupied West Bank. Israel does not issue building permits for more permanent structures. Any attempt to build such structures will likely end in demolition.
Appeals to the PA to help Jordan Valley communities secure vital infrastructure like roads and water pipes or access to education and health care have so far been in vain. Bedouin children have to travel nearly 20 kilometers or more than 12 miles to reach the nearest schools in the towns of Tubas or Tammoun. And there are no Palestinian emergency services in the area.
“We used to welcome [PA] officials when they came with photographers and reporters,” said local resident Abdulrahim Bsharat. But 90 percent of the promises they brought have come to nothing, he said.
How hard is it for Palestinian officials to “be honest with their people?” the 66-year-old asked. He lost a son after an accident. With an ambulance arriving six hours later, the boy bled to death.
Ibrahim Ahmed Salem is tired of unfulfilled promises. The 35-year-old waited years for a solar power unit for his home, one that might allow him to watch a few hours of TV and charge cell phones. When his neighbor received one from the relevant department in the PA, and he didn’t, however, he decided there was no point in waiting any longer. He sold a number of sheep and bought his own.
The last assistance he received from the PA was 40 kilograms or nearly 90 pounds of wheat. That was in 2008.
Sheepherders for many generations, the Bedouins have seen the space for their traditional livelihoods diminish over the decades since the Israeli occupation of the Jordan Valley in 1967. Israeli settlements continue expanding while the army keeps appropriating territory for training or as closed military zones, excluding those who have long lived and farmed there.
These practices and settlement expansion have led to the demolition of hundreds of homes and the “temporary” displacement of whole Bedouin communities. Under the latter practice, communities have been repeatedly uprooted — sometimes every few days.
Israel has made little secret of its determination to hang on to the Jordan Valley under any final political agreement it would strike with the PA leadership, and it has built large agricultural settlements along the stretch that borders Jordan.
In January, Israel announced it was annexing 154 hectares or 380 acres of agricultural land just next to Jericho and on the northern tip of the Dead Sea. It marks the largest land appropriation since 2014, when Israel purloined 400 hectares or nearly 1,000 acres of land to the Gush Etzion settlement bloc outside Bethlehem.
Text by The Electronic Intifada. Images and reportage by West Bank-based photojournalist Mohammad Alhaj.